Thursday, September 18, 2008

On Virtue and Rights

Here is an interesting article about rights and virtue ethics. I think it makes an important point in that just because you may have the right or freedom to do something, that doesn't mean that you should do it -- or that others should not be able to judge you for acting unvirtuously. By all means, be a coward, but don't expect anyone to either applaud you or to not judge you for being a coward. That is part of being a social species, having people expect you to act virtuously. And acting virtuously is part of being a member of a society.

Too many people think that liberty = license. Or that it means that you can do anything you want free of the judgement of others. Neither one are true. In fact, unvirtuous action often restricts your range of action, thus reducing your freedom. If fewer people want to work with you because you're a whiner, then you have fewer options in life. Thus, you have less freedom. Also, if you follow the second point to its logical conclusion, if you have the freedom to act as you wish, and so do I, then I am free to judge you, that being an act I am free to do. So the second point is contradictory.

In any case, though I may not agree with all the details of the article, I am in agreement that we could use a strong dose of virtue ethics in this country. Of course, hard times do build character, so if the economy continues to go down the path it has been of late, we might see a resurgence of virtue soon. And if the people would realize that it's the government that caused what is now happening, we might replace the corrupt idiots in charge with some people of virtue.
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